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Downtown Austin Alliance helps local creatives find pop-up spaces for their work

Four people sit facing an audience
Ry Olszewski
KUT News
Preston James, CEO and co-founder of DivInc, second from left, moderates a panel on the intersection of tech and DEI initiatives in the Downtown Austin Alliance's new space on Congress Avenue. Also shown, from left: Ifeoma Ike, partner at Pink Cornrows; Tamara Fields, managing director of Accenture in Austin; and Chris Hyams, CEO of Indeed.

The Downtown Austin Alliance held a pop-up Wednesday for a new initiative that provides local businesses and artists affordable studio and work space.

“Those creatives are the drumbeat of any city or urban center," Jenell Moffett, chief impact officer for the Downtown Austin Alliance, said. "The program is built with them in mind.”

Moffett is referring to the Downtown Austin Space Activation, which her nonprofit group created to bring pop-up shops, art installations, performances and other events to otherwise vacant spaces.

She said Downtown Austin Alliance began its plans for DASA in 2023 to combat then-rising rent prices that made it difficult for small businesses to operate downtown.

The program is "intended to remove these barriers and make sure that the creatives in the city are cherished, because that’s what makes this city so great,” Moffett said.

DASA currently has three vacant spaces, but is looking to occupy more as it grows. Property owners with empty or unused space can donate space to the program.

Creators can rent a space for six-eight weeks for around $300-$400 a month and can end with a show to highlight what they used the space for. Established businesses can hold pop-ups in the vacant spots for $250-$350 a day. Those interested can apply for a space through the DASA website.

Wednesday's event at the program's first storefront at 506 Congress Ave. featured a panel of speakers from both DASA and another nonprofit, DivInc, which works to provide opportunities to entrepreneurs in underrepresented communities.

Moffett said the partnership was harmonious. DivInc and the Downtown Austin Alliance had worked together in the past, and she said she felt they both wanted to help similar communities.

Mindful Bridges is an Austin-based therapy organization focused on inclusivity. Co-founder Dominique Caminos said the company needs to expand from North Austin to reach more diverse groups downtown.

“You can’t provide equitable solutions without addressing all [demographics],” she said. “We talked to DASA … and their solution was providing us space that can allow access and safety for the community.”

Caminos said Mindful Bridges will begin occupying space from DASA in July. They haven't settled on a cost yet for renting the downtown space.

Correction: A previous headline on this story indicated that rents were skyrocketing downtown and did not specify the type of rental properties. In fact, commercial rents are not skyrocketing downtown but have remained relatively stable so far in 2024. Additionally, the story was updated to clarify that the idea for the Downtown Austin Space Activation came together in 2023, when commercial rent prices were increasing.

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